Lost photo could solve Amelia Earhart mystery

News 06/07/2017

Famed lost aviator Amelia Earhart was captured by the Japanese, a newly discovered photograph appears to show.

Ms Earhart was trying to become the first woman to fly around the globe in 1937, but disappeared with her navigator Fred Noonan somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

Her plane was never found, and despite decades of searching, no one has ever figured out for sure what became of the pair.

But a never-seen-before photograph - discovered in the US National Archives and believed to have been taken by a spy investigating Japanese activities in the Pacific - could lay the mystery to rest.

The photograph is the subject of a new documentary airing on The History Channel in the US this weekend, Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence.

It shows two Caucasians - a man and a woman - on a dock in the Marshall Islands, surrounded by Japanese. Though blurry, the Caucasian man in the photo bears a striking resemblance to Mr Noonan. The Caucasian woman has her back to the photographer, but her face and distinctive short hair and pants match those of Ms Earhart.

"When you pull out, and when you see the analysis that's been done, I think it leaves no doubt to the viewers that that's Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan," Shawn Henry, former executive assistant director of the FBI, told NBC News.

"The hairline is the most distinctive characteristic," facial recognition expert Ken Gibson added, referring to Mr Doonan's widow's peak.

"It's a very sharp receding hairline. The nose is very prominent. It's my feeling that this is very convincing evidence that this is probably Noonan."

In the background of the photograph a Japanese boat can be seen towing a barge with something on it about the same size as Ms Earhart's twin-engined Lockheed Model 10 Electra plane.

The new evidence backs up Jaluit Atoll locals' claims they saw Ms Earhart taken captive by the Japanese. Others have reported spotting her on Saipan, an island to the northwest.

"We believe [the Japanese] took her to Saipan, and that she died there under the custody of the Japanese," says Gary Tarpinian, History executive producer.

It's not known if the photographer knew who the people in the picture were, or if he did but it was kept secret for security reasons.

Recent speculation on Ms Earhart's final resting place has focused on Gardner Island, Kiribati, southeast of the Marshall group.